Jaguars looking for a surprise in 2017

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It hasn’t been good for the Jaguars to open the season in a while. 

Having not won the opener since 2011 against Tennessee, they’ve fallen to .500, 11-11 over the 22 years in franchise history.  The Jaguars haven’t won on the road in an opener since 2000 against the Browns in Cleveland and they haven’t won in Houston since 2014.  Those are just some of the reasons the Texans are five point favorites on Sunday.

Of course, the franchise has only had seven winning seasons in its history and four of those were in the first five years of existence.  The last winning record was in 2007 when the Jaguars went 11-5. How quickly can you fall? The following year they were 5-11 and haven’t had a winning season since. 

But this is 2017, a new era, again for the Jaguars with Tom Coughlin calling the shots and Doug Marrone serving as the head coach. The Jaguars are an unknown this year with 13% of their roster turning over even since the beginning of training camp. There are surprises in every NFL season and the locals are hoping they’re one of them this season.

“I think it’s always a tough call, I try to stay steady,” Marrone said this week when asked about his expectations. “In other words, I don’t want to feel too good about something, I don’t want to feel too low about something, I want to wait and see what actually happens when you go out there and start playing on Sunday. I think that’s when people will say, okay this team is this.”

What Marrone and the Jaguars are hoping they become is a run-oriented offense with quarterback Blake Bortles managing the game with short-yardage situations on 3rd down thanks to Leonard Fournette carrying the load. (James Stewart’s 26 carries is the most for the Jaguars in the opener).  They’re also hoping the money and draft picks spent on defense give them a pass rush and a field position advantage they can take advantage of often.

If there’s one advantage to facing the Texans in the opener it’s that Houston wants to run the ball, control the clock and play defense as well. But in this case, Houston’s defense is a proven commodity.

“Yeah, this is a tough team to run against,” Marrone explained.  “That is probably a little more game plan stuff, so I am not going to sit here and say we are going to force it or we are going to go to this. I think the game plan will work themselves and we will see where we are during the course of the game.”

In other words, they’re hoping to run it but will lean on Bortles if they have to.

One of the roster changes put WR Dede Westbrook on injured reserve. He was in Philadelphia last week to see a specialist about a core muscle issue but came back to play in the Atlanta preseason game last Thursday. Sounds more like a “roster holding” move than anything else as Westbrook can return to the active roster in eight weeks. The Jaguars also picked up safety Calvin Pryor after the Browns cut him.  Pryor is a former first round pick by the Jets and was traded to Cleveland.  He reportedly worked his way out of Cleveland after getting into a fight with a teammate. To make room, the Jaguars released OL Earl Watford. As an example of how volatile the roster on a team coming of three wins can be, Watford was a candidate to start at left guard before he was released. Patrick Omameh will get the start at that spot in week one against the Texans.